Home sweet home (court) for Bluder's Bunch

March 13, 2009

Coach Bluder talks NCAA tournament

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Everything seems bigger in the postseason and for head coach Lisa Bluder and the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, that means a home court advantage.

Bluder’s Bunch will discover its NCAA Tournament fate Monday evening at 6, televised live on ESPN. At the same time, an unknown opponent will realize that it has to journey to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to play in front of the lively Iowa fans.

“When you get to host the NCAA tournament, it’s a great advantage,” Bluder said. “You’re playing on a national stage and we have an opportunity to play on our home court and we’ve got to take that advantage and use it and make it almost scary for opponents to have to play here.”

Iowa has won eight straight home games and 15 of its last 16. The Hawkeyes were 13-1 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season and 26-4 over the past two seasons. Iowa’s last home loss was to Purdue, 69-60, on Dec. 28, 2008.

“We take great pride in making Carver-Hawkeye Arena a home court advantage for us and making it our house. We’re very comfortable playing here. We feed off the fans, the band and the excitement that’s in this arena. I know we can make this a great first-round site with tremendous fan support.”

Click HERE to purchase tickets online. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

This is the first time in 11 years that Iowa has been named an NCAA tournament site. In 1998, the Hawkeyes defeated Massachusetts 77-59 in the first round before falling to Kansas 62-58. Iowa also hosted in 1996 and the Hawkeyes responded with victories against Butler (72-67) and DePaul (72-71). This is the sixth time in nine seasons that Bluder’s Bunch has advanced to the NCAA tournament — compiling a 2-5 record. Those games were played in places like Salt Lake City, Storrs, Blacksburg, Denver and Norfolk — not home sweet home.

“When you get the opportunity to host, you’re sending a message to the whole country about what the University of Iowa stands for,” Bluder said. “It shows the support that we have here for women’s athletics. It shows the great tradition that we have for basketball success. We have to take this opportunity and really run with it. We have a great opportunity to show people what the University of Iowa is all about and we need to have a good showing.”

Led by first team all-Big Ten point guard Kristi Smith, the Hawkeyes have compiled a record of 21-10 this season and shared second place in the league standings during the regular season. In 31 games, Smith averages a team-high 13.4 points per game, with 63 three-point field goals and 100 assists. Megan Skouby and Wendy Ausdemore both average 12.4 points per game and Kachine Alexander scored 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per outing.

“People enjoy watching us play because we do play an exciting brand of basketball,” Bluder said. “We get out and we run, we shoot the three-ball very well, we pass the ball well. People like to watch an up-tempo team, which we are. When you get to know the players and their personalities and what kind of people they are, you want to support this group because they’re such likable women and tremendous role models. They’re successful on the court and they’re successful in the classroom and they’re tremendous community servants.”

Last season Iowa played Georgia in the first round of the NCAA tournament, losing 67-61, despite 17 points from Smith and 16 from Ausdemore.

Supporting the Hawkeyes is a huge reason to come out to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on March 22 and 24. Another is the fact that three other top basketball teams will be on display as well.

“You’re going to see some of the best basketball in the country being played,” Bluder said. “Once you reach the postseason, the intensity level just magnifies. You know that every game is so vitally important, an opportunity to move on or an opportunity to end your season, and nobody wants their season to end.”